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May 25, 2013

Film Review: FAST & FURIOUS 6 (2013): The Franchise Comes Full Circle

Paul Walker Vin Diesel Dwayne Johnson Fast and Furious 6

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) Film Review, a movie directed by Justin Lin and starring Luke Evans, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Clara Paget, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Joe Taslim, Rowena Diamond, Gina CaranoJohn Ortiz, and Kim Kold.

*This movie review contain numerous spoilers so please be warned before you start reading it. *

Fast & Furious 6 is the second best film in the franchise behind Fast & Furious and is the completion of the shift from car racing movies to heist films.

Out of the gate, Fast and Furious 6 was full of cliches, including generic bad guys and loose twists but it did continue a storyline that has endured while adding things that the previous installments lacked. Each The Fast and the Furious film has gotten more and more outrageous and Fast and Furious 6 was no exception e.g. the location of the film’s final showdown.

Fast & Furious 6 had two storylines: one of stopping a criminal and one of recovering a friend (a “family member”). The family storyline was problematic because so many thing went unsaid. Dominic “Dom”  Toretto (Vin Diesel) showed he had knowledge that he couldn’t possibly have had because no one with that knowledge told him of it. Revelations happened in one scene and Toretto knew of it in another without a phone, email, or text message. I do not expect a movie like this to dot all the i’s and j’s like Nicolas Winding Refn‘s Drive almost did but why not have a moment or two where Dominic is sent an important text message chock-full of important information?

This type of loose writing and carelessness was immediately detrimental to the reality presented in Fast & Furious 6 but what Toretto did with his mysteriously obtained knowledge was not. Leticia “Letty” Ortiz  and Dominic Toretto’s brief amnesia courtship, seen at length in Michael Sucsy‘s The Vow, was effective in its brevity, especially Toretto’s use of former relationship information “against” Ortiz. What was curious during all this was that Toretto had no pangs of guilt as he was still in a relationship with Rio de Janeiro police officer Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky). Guilt and a love triangle would have made this courtship a stronger plot element since a hard-fought victory is better savored.

The leaders of both car teams in Fast & Furious 6 had opposing philosophies when it came to their team members and how they conducted criminal operations. I wish these differences, especially on Owen Shaw (Luke Evans)’s team, had been presented in more than just a cursory way. The new team in Fast & Furious 6 was never explored, a pity but a common occurrence as screenwriters believe that since the bad guys are going to be eliminated, they only need surface personalities and surface motivations. In Michael Mann‘s Heat, the complete opposite was present: team members on both teams were explored and fleshed out, most notably each teams’ leader. In Fast & Furious 6, it was almost completely one-sided, the good guys side.

Fast & Furious 6 was the first The Fast and the Furious film where civilians were killed during the car crime mayhem and with it came a dose of much needed reality. Housed in only one scene, these deaths were surprising moments but perpetrated with a flippancy that begged the question: what purpose did these “crunch” deaths serve the perpetrator? I believe Shaw meant them to ultimately distract Toretto’s team but what could they have done to him in a mobile war machine? The resolution to this conundrum ended with the latter question being answered.

As is evident, Fast & Furious 6 was not free of question marks. Fast & Furious 6 was not free of the arrogance and lunacy perpetrated in James Bond films either. When a double agent revealed their true allegiance in the third act of Fast & Furious 6, it gained the plot of the film and the team that person switched to nothing. This disclosure (clearly designed to be significant) even lacked dramatic impact, it just happened, like air released from a balloon. The turncoat now had no access to state and federal law enforcement resources, their legitimate career was destroyed, and they could no longer tell the leader of one team what the opposition was doing or planning to do. In Marc Forster‘s Quantum of Solace, when the double agent revealed himself, it was purposeful. When Bond revealed who he really was at the hotel check-in counter in Martin Campbell‘s Casino Royale, it was egocentric but provocative at the same time. It let his target know he did not fear him and that MI6 was going to get him no matter what. In Fast & Furious 6, there was no hidden agenda behind the reveal, no reason, no goal, and no gain. It just happened.

Something else that just happened in the film was the convenient personality shift of FBI Special Agent Stasiak (Shea Whigham) from Fast and Furious to Fast & Furious 6. This character morph was similar if not identical to the personality shift of FBI Special Agent Bilkins from The Fast and the Furious to 2 Fast 2 Furious. One moment FBI Special Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Stasiak are enemies in the Federal Bureau of Investigations, next one is a fugitive, and then they are friends fighting for a common cause. This would have more believable if it had been given some backstory instead of the “this will be the bust of your career” narrative bandage. Was U.S. Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) an intermediary here? The viewer was never told and it was never alluded to.

What was alluded to in the first act of Fast & Furious 6 was who the final showdown in the film would be between and like clockwork those people face off in the third act. It was predictable and I thought that the first showdown between certain characters were far more entertaining, especially Brian O’Conner and Vegh (Clara Paget)’s first meeting.

The third act of Fast & Furious 6 held tightly to its bosom the Hollywood contrivance that all bad guys eventually get their comeuppance. Like in J.J. AbramsStar Trek into Darkness, it was aggravating to see smart and capable criminals not being able to out think or fight their opponents. On all fronts this was to be expected (the franchise / money machine must continue) but it would have been a welcome change if the final confrontations had been equally disastrous for both sides or if one team sacrificed themselves to take down the other team à la mode de Sherlock Holmes.

The ending of Fast & Furious 6 brought the franchise full circle but why give up such palatial homes in beautiful countries around the world for a run down house in Los Angeles, California? Because its home and the Toretto family home, I got that, but most of them were rich. They didn’t have to live there but in the end, memories out-weighed opulence.

Rating7/10